Welcome to my Blog

Monday, May 10, 2010

How Can I Help My Depressed Brother?

Dear A. B. Curtiss

My brother is depressed to the point where he is totally debilitated. I am sick and scared for him. He is seeing a psychologist, a psychiatrist, is on drugs and went through 12 sessions of shock therapy. All to no real avail. He is still not functioning.

I purchased your book "Brainswitch out of Depression" and started reading it when I was visiting my brother. He took it and started to read it himself so I let him have it. While I did not read all of your suggested exercises, I did read some, and talked to him about them. I agree you can't concentrate on two things at once, your depression and some exercise, and what you recommend makes sense.

The problem is my brother cannot motivate himself to do anything but dwell in the past and on his depression. He is on several medications for depression, anxiety and paranoia. Still nothing is helping. He does not want to get out of bed in the morning, does not want to shower or do anything. We have begged him to exercise, but can only get him to go if we drag him. Do you have any suggestions on capturing the will of someone to help themselves? N___________

Dear N_________

Of course this is the million-dollar question, isn't it? How do you inspire the will of some someone to help themselves? Trying to help someone who will not do anything to move forward with their day is an exercise in frustration.

Depressed people are so CERTAIN that they are helpless. People who are coming from a POSITION OF CERTAINTY are just not open to new information. They have to first be moved to a POSITION OF UNCERTAINTY. We must get them to do some small thing, so their position of certainly is pierced, and they might question themselves as to whether they are completely helpless.

Your brother does not know he is afraid, and therefore he cannot summon up his courage to do anything about his life. When we don't know we are afraid we blame others, or other things other than ourselves for our failures, including our depression. Blame is the way we avoid the terrible pain of our own fear.

Therefore your brother thinks there is nothing wrong with him that he can do anything about. He feels that he has been attacked by a disease over which he has no power. The medications keep him docile and passive, so the normal anxiety and fear that gets people up and going will not be working for him.

This is very difficult. It's like shooting in the dark to know what is the thing that a person might reach out for at this low point of motivation. Psychiatrists tell us that depression deprives us of will. But this is not true. Depression only deprives us of motivation. Sometimes our love for our depressed relative can somehow supply the missing motivation.

But our interference in another's life must be delicate, and it takes time. You can't call for a fix-it session, and hand out orders. You have to "hang out," put up with a lot of nonsense, and sometimes, in the course of a lengthy conversation, there comes an opportunity to make some very small positive point. It can't be a negative point. To pierce the position of certainty.

For instance, it would do no good to say, "You should be more active, get more exercise, why not sign up for basketball at the Y." Rather, it would be better to say something like, "Remember how good you were in basketball. I saw some fellows playing at the Y and they looked like such clunkers to the way I remember you used to play." And then drop it. Don't go any further. If nothing comes of it, try again some other time. Advertising executives tell us that customers need to hear something 7 times before it sinks in.

You won't ever be rewarded with any credit for making a small point. You won't even know your small point has hit its mark until you hear the other person repeat it later on, as if he has thought of it himself.

Your brother is not really helpless, he CAN do anything, but he doesn't FEEL like doing it. This is a very secure and certain place, for there is no risk here. He can't lose anything. If he tries to do something, there is the chance he'll fail. You probably feels like yelling and screaming at him, but truthfully, only love and patience works.

In a way your brother has reverted to emotional infancy. He's telling himself he's helpless. But he's certainly not helpless to REFUSE to do anything. REFUSING TO DO ANYTHING is the only thing he can control, so he's not going to let it go easily. He can't control his real life, but he can control the fact that nobody can get him to do anything. The victim is always in charge of his victimhood.
I suggest that you get your brother to walk until he is tired, then at least he would have the benefit of some natural relaxation after physical exertion. This might interrupt the tension caused by suffering. And there would be some sense of accomplishment.

Perhaps some magical thinking might get him going psychologically. The Law of Attraction might capture his fancy. He might like to read the book "The Secret." Since he is addicted to depression he might just switch the addiction to something benign like the law of attraction. Often one addiction can be substituted for another. Why don’t you watch the DVD of "The Secret" with him.

Sometimes comedy DVD's give people some relief from despair by triggering off different neural patterns, and breaking up the continual negative feedback loop. But you would have to make him sit for it at first. People are extremely resistant to comedy when they are depressed. Too bad, for comedy is a good neural exercise.
The fact is that depressed people are only comfortable with the negative .

If your brother has some craft or trade, it might help to get him doing some small things. Again, this would activate different neural patterns other than the depressive ones. One man actually cured his own depression by quitting his white-collar job, and taking the lowly job of managing a newspaper route. His interactions with his customers finally broke through his sense of isolation and aloneness.

Sometimes you can break the sense of isolation by getting out in the wildness of nature. Looking at the stars at night give people the idea that they are part of the world, and as such, they feel a spiritual connection which they lose with depression. Any reconnection is good, even if it's connecting to a tree.

Getting somebody else to improve their situation is almost impossible. It's hard enough for us to improve our own situation. We can cajole, inspire, accompany. As long as we do it in a spirit of love, sooner or later, sometimes our love can make a difference. It can bring some doubt into the certainty of a depressed person that they have nothing going for themselves when they have our love. A.B. Curtiss

No comments: